People who live green at home are likely to practice similar habits at work. CDC encourages staff to Go Green Get Healthy wherever they are to conserve resources at work and at home. Incorporating sustainability into your lifestyle means becoming aware of the impact of your choices in food, products, and energy use. Focus on the small steps you can take at home, at work, and in your community. You can start by calculating your environmental footprintExternal or listening to CDC’s Supporting a Healthy Planet podcast.
According to the World Health OrganizationExternal, 13 million deaths annually and nearly a quarter of all disease worldwide – including 33 percent of illnesses in children under age five – are due to environmental causes that could be avoided or prevented. Doing your part to take care of the environment helps you protect yourself and others from the climate’s effects on health. Health issues such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, and stroke can be aggravated by an unhealthy environment. Here are a few actions you can take to do your part to live smart.
Production, processing, packaging, and transportation of food is highly dependent on the use of fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers. These can greatly harm our health and the health of the environment.
CDC envisions a food system that provides healthy, sustainable choices, minimizes environmental impacts, and serves as a model for the broader public health community. As a consumer, you have power to make a difference by considering the impact of your choices. Opting for local, healthy, environmentally responsible food helps promote both personal health and overall health of the community.
Sustainable food systems operate in a cycle of sustainable production and support. Farmers can make their food more sustainable by limiting pesticide use and treating their animals humanely and responsibly. Consumers can select food produced close to home and reduce the impact of our food system on the environment by lessening the distance food travels from farm to table.
- Choose foods that:
- Do not harm the environment.
- Support and preserve rural communities.
- Are healthy and nutritious.
- Respect farm animals.
- Provide farmers with fair wages.
- Are free of added toxins.
- Are grown locally.
- Do not harm the health of farm workers.
Pollutants released by vehicles greatly increase air pollution levels and have been linked to adverse health effects, including premature mortality, cardiac symptoms, exacerbation of asthma symptoms, and diminished lung function. To minimize the damaging impact of our current transportation choices, try adopting more sustainable methods of travel.
CDC campuses use the alternative commute options featured below, as well as onsite electric vehicle charging program for staff to shift to sustainable transportation in compliance with Executive Order 13693External.
- Alternative commute options include:
- Walking and bicycling.
- Public transportation.
- Telework and alternate work schedules.
Sustainable homes are not only better for the planet, but offer opportunity for great cost savings.
- Tips for saving energy:
- Make sure your home is well-insulated to conserve energy and spend less on heat and air conditioning.
- Use a programmable thermostat to time your heat and air conditioning for when you are in your home. These can shut off while you are away, saving both energy and money.
- Weatherproof your home. Caulk, seal, or weather strip outside openings to prevent air leaks.
- Conserve water by installing aerating and low-flow faucets and showerheads. Coose garden plants that don’t have a high demand for water.
- Looking for a major upgrade? Tankless and on-demand water heaters can save up to 30% of energy compared to standard natural gas tank heaters.
There are many stages in a product’s life cycle, and each one can negatively affect the environment. Before making a purchase, consider the full impact of the product’s material, manufacturing method, and usage.
To convert raw (or recycled) materials into a product, elements are processed, shaped, and manipulated. These steps consume energy and deplete nonrenewable natural resources. For example, plastic products are made from petroleum, a finite resource.
Transportation of products (including food) using fuel burning vehicles releases carbon emissions and contributes to particle pollution. This lessens air quality and can impact personal health.
Additionally, many products affect the environment throughout their useful life. Using these items responsibly can reduce their environmental impact. Any equipment with a plug requires electricity to operate. To prevent wasting energy, turn equipment off when not in use.
At the end of a product’s useful life, consider what parts may be reused and how to dispose of the product or its components responsibly. Plastics, glass, paper, and other materials may be recycled. Many manufacturers will take products at the end of their lifecycle. Check with vendors in your area for specifics on disposal practices.
- Green purchase checklist:
- Contains 30% or greater post-consumer recycled content (paper).
- Made of biobased content.
- Is environmentally preferable, energy efficient, and/or water efficient.
- Has minimal life cycle costs.
- Has minimal risk of toxic/hazardous chemicals.
- Is durable or has a long product life.
- Is necessary.
Electronics impact the environment and human health. Fabricating and shipping electronics use water and energy, and often create industrial waste.
The disposal of electronics results in a massive amount of waste going into landfills. Toxins, commonly found in electronics, can leak into the soil or release into the air through burning.
To prevent toxic leakage from electronics, look for e-waste recycling programs in your community. Specialized centers can safely dispose of these products and may be able to recycle some of the material. Many manufacturers will also take old products to recycle their parts.
Only through management over the entire life cycle of electronics can we mitigate the negative effects on our soil, water, air, and health.
- Check for special programs in your area to recycle:
- Old laptops or phones.
- Printers, keyboards, and other computer accessories.
- Wires and plugs.